Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Series vs. Stand Alone #amwriting #amreading

My latest release, Divine Fall, has garnered many requests for a sequel as well as a prequel, and I'm thrilled about that.  It's truly gratifying to know that readers aren't done with my characters and want to stay in their world a bit longer--writing characters people care about is what it's all about.  While I've left the door open to possibly continue Jamie and Dothan's story, Divine Fall is very much a stand alone novel without a cliffhanger ending.  All my books are, in fact, and I think that has a lot to do with my own reading preference--which, not surprisingly, is guessed it, stand alone novels!

In Divine Fall, the last Nephilim
will have to make a choice--
continue his quest for revenge, or
protect the girl he's grown to love.
Don't get me wrong--I do understand the appeal of revisiting characters you know and love.  And sometimes it makes perfect sense that the circumstances of the overall story arc will create enough action to keep characters fighting against plenty of conflict and tension. But a lot of the time, it doesn't, and things go south in terms of the plot.  Especially when writing romance, where the author has to keep the couple apart for a good portion of the time.  A content couple with no obstacles to overcome to achieve that happiness makes for a very boring storyline.  In my books, both the hero and the heroine have significant conflicts - both internal and external - keeping them apart.  I want the reader to be desperate for them to finally get together, and to be gratified when they finally earn their Happily Ever After.  Plus, I always throw in a climactic danger scene, because again, I like a plot that involves more than just complex emotions and character development.

Silver Lake and Gull Harbor
are both reunion romances
mixed with ghost stories.
So, after about 300 pages of sexual tension, spooky suspense, and shocking revelations, coupled with an edge-of-your-seat climax, I feel like my characters have had enough.  They deserve their happiness, and I want to give it to them.  Sure, I could find another way to rip them apart in Book 2, and then let them find their way back to one another once again...but honestly, how much more could I throw at these two people and still come across as believable?  Even though real life gets awfully complicated sometimes, fictional characters do tend to be burdened with more than their fair share of bad luck, family strife, damaging secrets, devastating betrayal, and life-or-death situations.  As a reader and a writer, I prefer believable scenes and events.  Even within the paranormal, it's important to me to have enough details and explanations to keep a supernatural element from veering too far out into left field.

Of course, there are exceptions.  A story about a detective or a private investigator, for example, easily lends itself to a series--the very nature of the job will thrust the main character into new danger, deceit, and mystery with each case.  Or a series that uses the same setting, family, clan, etc. as a connection, focusing on different main characters with each new novel as opposed to the same two main characters.  For example, fans of Whitney, My Love (which includes me) needed more of Whitney and Clayton, and Judith McNaught answered the call by creating the Westmoreland Saga.  Each book can function as a stand-alone, but characters are connected as relatives of the seductive Duke of Claymore, and we get to see brief appearances of beloved characters from previous novels, or in the case of A Kingdom of Dreams, ancestors dating back to 1497.

Only a few trilogies or sagas featuring the same main characters have truly kept my interest through the entire journey.  The Twilight Saga spanned four books, yet the conflict was strong enough, and the world-building intriguing enough, to keep me enjoying each new book.  Yes, I loved Twilight, and when an editorial reviewer said Divine Fall reminded her of Twilight, I was thrilled.

One of my absolute favorite books, The Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons, left me scrambling for the next in the series, Tatiana and Alexander.  I thought the second was nearly as good as the first, and the ending was perfect.  But then I went ahead and read the third, The Summer Garden, and I was so disappointed.  It was a strange combination of childhood flashbacks that went nowhere mixed with sad details of present day life, and one of the characters did something I hated.  Now, when I recommend The Bronze Horseman, I tell people to read the first two books and leave it at that!

Chime in - what do you prefer, stand alones, series, or both?  What are your favorites?  Why? Let's hear your opinion!

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